The Best Plants for Every Balcony, Fire Escape, or Windowsill

There’s no magic size to turn a balcony into a lush miniature oasis. Even a space that’s too small to fit a table can be used to grow a variety of plants, if, that is, you keep a few important things in mind.

Firstly, be aware of your microclimate. Th…

There’s no magic size to turn a balcony into a lush miniature oasis. Even a space that’s too small to fit a table can be used to grow a variety of plants, if, that is, you keep a few important things in mind.

Firstly, be aware of your microclimate. This is the rather small (or, micro, ha!) climate of the area you’re planting in, as opposed to the climate of your larger region. For example, the higher you’re up in a building, the more your plants are exposed to wind, which not only damages plants but also dries them out—something to consider when picking more delicate plant varieties. Similarly, you’ll need to determine how much sunlight your balcony gets and select plants that need full sun, can withstand partial shade, or need shade.

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Seeds vs. Plants: A Buying Guide for Budding Gardeners

During the second half of May, I keep an eye on the weather forecast (even more obsessively than usual), because I have dozens of vegetable plants ready to be transplanted into the garden. Here in northeastern Pennsylvania, we can still get a late fros…

During the second half of May, I keep an eye on the weather forecast (even more obsessively than usual), because I have dozens of vegetable plants ready to be transplanted into the garden. Here in northeastern Pennsylvania, we can still get a late frost that would be fatal for my tender young plants.

My garden is a mixture of plants from nurseries and ones that I started myself from seed, and whether you should grow from seed or buy plants very much depends on your individual situation. Root vegetables such as beets and parsnips don’t transplant well, and they should be directly seeded in the garden, as should be beans, peas, and leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. For all the others, here’s a list of factors to consider.

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The Best Time to Water Your Plants—& Why It’s Crucial

A perfect amount of rainfall is every gardener’s dream, but the reality is that almost every summer, there are stretches of hot, dry days when we need to water to keep our plants alive. The question of when it’s the best time to water your garden goes …

A perfect amount of rainfall is every gardener’s dream, but the reality is that almost every summer, there are stretches of hot, dry days when we need to water to keep our plants alive. The question of when it’s the best time to water your garden goes hand in hand with the question of how to water. To help you get the most out of that precious H2O, here are some watering basics:

Why Water Is Necessary

You’ll recall from biology class that water is necessary for plants to perform photosynthesis—the process of transforming water into sugar and oxygen when the leaves are exposed to light. But water does more than that, it also transports nutrients inside the plant, so even in the richest of garden soils, plants will be undernourished if the water supply is insufficient.

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Why the Next Big Gardening Trend Is Taking a Cue from Local Biodiversity

Planting a tree and seeing it grow and thrive is one of the most long-lasting and fulfilling gardening experiences. I feel that way about the gingko in our front yard, but when it comes to wildlife value, a gingko is almost like having a plastic tree i…

Planting a tree and seeing it grow and thrive is one of the most long-lasting and fulfilling gardening experiences. I feel that way about the gingko in our front yard, but when it comes to wildlife value, a gingko is almost like having a plastic tree in your yard—it has zero value to the little critters that make nature work. A gingko attracts no caterpillars at all (which are essential for birds to raise their young), but a native oak, on the other hand, supports more than 550 species of caterpillars. According to Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware and a leading voice in the movement to plant more natives, a single pair of chickadees needs 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to feed one clutch of young.

Unfortunately, most of the plants sold by nurseries today are not wildlife-friendly natives but introduced from Asia and Europe, often decades and centuries ago. The good news is, that over the past two decades the movement for planting natives has been gaining traction. More nurseries are offering native plants and some nurseries specialize only in natives. Home gardeners and landscape architects have become more aware that say, the Bradford pear, a very popular ornamental pear tree, might not be the best choice.

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The Essential Gardening Step You’re Probably Skipping

When I started my first vegetable garden, I drew everything out on graph paper, much to the amusement of my husband. As it turns out, I had the right idea. A few years later, when I became a Master Gardener, I learned that record-keeping is an indispen…

When I started my first vegetable garden, I drew everything out on graph paper, much to the amusement of my husband. As it turns out, I had the right idea. A few years later, when I became a Master Gardener, I learned that record-keeping is an indispensable first step. Because, while we think we remember, the reality is that we forget things (did I fertilize that tomato plant two weeks ago?) in the course of a gardening season, let alone from one gardening year to the next.

How you keep track of what you grow—with a garden app, notebook, monthly planner, index cards, or on spreadsheets—doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you and you record things while they’re still fresh in your memory. As with anything else, record-keeping takes the guesswork out of gardening so you can focus your efforts on making your plants thrive.

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